FCC Adopts Rules for Private Entities to Report Robocall Violations

TCPA Connect


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) has adopted new rules to implement the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, providing guidance on how “private entities” can report robocall violations.

While the Commission has a well-established process for consumers to submit complaints about unwanted and suspected illegal robocalls and spoofed calls (primarily via the FCC’s website)—and a process in place for obtaining information from certain public entities—no formal mechanism previously existed for private entities to share such information. The new rules are designed to address this shortfall.

Accordingly, Section 10(a) of the TRACED Act directed the Commission to “prescribe regulations to establish a process that streamlines the ways in which a private entity may voluntarily share with the Commission information relating” to violations of Section 227(b) or 227(e) of the Communications Act.

In a June 17 report and order that followed a December 2020 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC did just that, directing the Enforcement Bureau “to create and monitor an online portal located on the Commission website.”

The agency anticipated “that this portal will be particularly useful to private entities experiencing large[-]scale robocall incidents and voice service providers that have network analytic information,” according to the report and order. “This robocall ‘tip’ line will provide a streamlined process for reporting potential violations, and will enable the Enforcement Bureau to respond quickly to disruptive robocalling events.”

Timely and thorough information from private entities is crucial to the Commission, the agency explained, and past enforcement actions have “relied extensively” on information from private entities such as a medical paging company and an industry group.

The FCC was careful to define “private entity” as “any entity other than (1) an individual natural person or (2) a public entity,” declining to combine the consumer complaint portal with the new system. In other words, this gives businesses a vehicle to complain about unwanted robocalls.

“Consumers are already served by the existing informal complaint intake process, and the TRACED Act gives no indication that Congress intended to upset or replace that process,” according to the report and order.

When making a report in the portal, a private entity will be required to submit minimum information such as its name, contact information (including at least one individual name and means of contacting the entity), the caller ID information displayed, the phone number(s) called, the date(s) and time(s) of the relevant calls or texts, the name of the reporting private entity’s service provider, and a description of the problematic calls or texts.

Once submitted, the agency will review to determine whether the information presents evidence of a rule violation, sharing information gathered from the portal with other government agencies combating robocalls if necessary.

To read the FCC’s report and order, click here.

Why it matters: The new portal provides a process for private entities to report potential violations of either the TCPA or the Truth in Caller ID Act, leaving the consumer complaint system in place without a change. However, there is a continuing debate whether businesses are entitled to protection from robocalls under the TCPA, or at least to what extent. This new mechanism for private entity complaints may suggest that businesses should be afforded some protection. How much remains to be seen.

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